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Mr Tan Hang Cheong, Principal, Singapore Polytechnic

Distinguished Guests,

Parents and Graduands,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good Morning.

  1. I am honoured to be here with you. Today is the Singapore Maritime Academy (SMA) Graduation day. Amongst the SMA graduands, there are also graduands from the School of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering in Mechatronics, and Resort Facilities Services & Management. You have all done well. Your graduation is an affirmation of your hard work and successful completion of the polytechnic education. My heartiest congratulations to all of you. Soon, you will be joining me, as the Alma Mata of Singapore Polytechnic, an institute that prepares her graduates to be work ready, life ready and world ready.
  2. Fond memories of my graduation day still rings clear - the excitement and the sense of fulfilment, the pride and joy of families and friends, must have resonated much with how you feel. As mentioned, I am a graduate from the Singapore Polytechnic (SP).
    I belonged to the 7th batch of the Marine Engineering graduates back in 1972. If my calculation is correct, the Marine Engineering graduands seated here should be the 47th batch. You may say, “Wow!” but let me add that for me, “Forty is the old age of youth; but fifty is the youth of old age” – a quote from a French novelist, Victor Hugo. I feel that I could share with you how my polytechnic education has prepared me for my career in the maritime industry. Now that I am in the “youth” of the second stage in life, I should share what the industry will look for in young graduates as I have been in there for some decades now.

“An SP Graduate” - Polytechnic Education and my Career

  1. I have chosen a sea-going career by choice, and I enrolled to the Diploma in Marine Engineering (DMR) course in the then Engineering school at SP. Right from the early days, the course placed very strong emphasis on practical skills. Besides the training at the workshops, I was given the opportunity to sail, working and co-existing with various nationalities, and experienced first-hand what work and life was like onboard ships even as a cadet. The DMR course now offers more and still retains the emphasis and flavour. For those, like me, who want to sail – they can be trained in the ‘shipboard operation’ option. Those who want to join the offshore marine industry or prefer shore-based assignments – they can choose to be trained in the ‘off-shore technology’ option.
  2. Compared to my time, students at SMA have benefitted even more from the diploma courses. Whether it is the DMR course, the Diploma in Maritime Business or the Diploma in Nautical Studies, I am aware that each is distinctive and industry-relevant. I know because I am still a serving member with the Maritime Industry Advisory Committee in SMA for the past 20 years.
    SMA has value-added to the students’ learning by offering better facilities, and effective out-of-classroom activities over time. It has increased its scope of industry research tie-ups and collaborations. Just last month, a new centre, Simulation@SMARTFORCE, was set-up as SMA celebrates 55 years in the maritime education and training. The centre is a product of collaboration between SMA and Force Technology of Denmark to bring maritime simulation technology in Singapore to greater heights, as SMA keeps abreast with technology and needs of the industry.
  3. The diploma course at SP has armed me with the relevant skills and the mental preparedness as I begin my career. Let me share with you my personal journey. In 1972, DMR was a rigorous 5-year course comprising of full time studies for the first two years, at least 18 months at sea as a Cadet and a Day-release programme in the final year where one worked as an apprentice at the shipyard by day and attended classes in school at night.  As a Cadet Engineer, I sailed 19 months continuously on one ship with Neptune Orient Lines (NOL). Life was tough in those days! As a young cadet, I learned to be disciplined and focused on excelling in my career.  I was determined to be the first among my batch of 22 students to be promoted to Chief Engineer. Thankfully, in 1977, I got my First Class Certificate of Competency and became a Chief Engineer. I was 27 years old then.
    NOL then gave me a shore job as a Technical Superintendent. My responsibilities included looking after new ships built in Japan. My early trainings at SP and having learnt to be disciplined and focused since my cadet days helped me through my career. I took up the opportunity to do a degree programme in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering on NOL’s scholarship. Upon graduation, I took on various corporate positions that were offered to me, and became the Managing Director of the ship management business at NOL eventually. My 36 years with NOL has been nothing short of spectacular and I have thoroughly enjoyed my time.
  4. Six years ago, I was persuaded by Pacific Carriers Ltd to be the Director of PACC Ship Management. This new role gives me the opportunity to learn and contribute beyond my job scope at NOL. It also requires me to oversee PCL ship management activities in Europe, China and Asia. Such is my career journey since my diploma days. I hope what I have shared would be an encouragement to many.

Employers’ Expectations: Young Graduates must Measure Up

  1. Asia is still where the maritime action is. 50% of the world’s tonnage is owned and operated in Asia, thus Singapore’s maritime industry is vibrant. Our port is still one of the busiest in the world. Despite the uncertain global economic climate, the report for last year showed that the Port of Singapore continued to show strong growth in vessel arrival tonnage, container and cargo throughput, and bunker sales, and went on to win many international accolades. Our Singapore Registry of Ships also grew and maintained its ranks among the top 10 in the world. Putting all these in perspective, the job market is still promising for the young graduates in the maritime industry. To support the huge spectrum of maritime activities, Singapore needs manpower from ship-based to shore-based, from shipping and port related activities, maritime services, such as shipping finance and logistics, maritime law and insurance, to offshore, shipbuilding and repair services.
  2. While job opportunities are present, so is competition. You will have to compete with many other talents as the maritime industry is a global and evolving one. When you were a student, you pretty much know what your lecturers expected of you. However, in the real world, things were not all simple. Employers have expectations that they would like you to meet. For young graduates, I like to share from the perspective of what employers hope to see in young graduates so that they measure up at work.
  3. First of all, employers love committed employees. Human resource is a very important asset to any Company.  Companies who understand this will aim to maximise their human resource through investing in the upgrading of their staff. Just like any other investments, it is expected to bear fruits so that it can be shared by all. But if the staff lacks commitment, whether to the Company or the mission of the Company, then such efforts would be wasted.
    Employers also love staff with good working attitude which I am sure all of you have.  Whenever a staff genuinely shows eagerness to learn and contribute to the company’s success, the Company will be more than willing to invest in such a person. So, learn, contribute, take pride in what you do, and look for opportunities to make a difference at work with your future employers.  

What it takes “to be successful in work and life”

  1. Finally, I would like to part with you one personal mantra that has worked for me at work and in life. I place equal emphasis to my spiritual, social, physical and family life, and make them just as important as my intellectual and financial pursuits. I hope it would be a useful reference for you.
    On this note, I would like to once again congratulate all graduands. I wish you great success in work and life.